2017-11-29 / Front Page

Sunnyside Chamber Holds Special Meeting On Real Estate

By Thomas Cogan
Just before Thanksgiving, the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce held a real estate meeting at Queen of Angels Parish Hall, Skillman Avenue at 44th Street.  There, a five-member panel talked about the effect of dealing with local real estate brokers or big-name ones; buying your own living quarters  or renting; co-operatives versus condominiums; the possible effect of pending tax legislation; landmarking and its effects; and the expansion of Long Island City.  The meeting occasionally got sidetracked over delays to and repairs of the No. 7 train service and hotels converted to homeless shelters, but the moderator always managed to pull the discussion back to the main topic and details.

The participants were Mohamed Bessai of Olympic City Real Estate in Woodside, where he is a buyer’s agent and listings agent; Scott Cooper of Cooper Real Estate, also in Woodside, where like Bessai he works in residential and commercial real estate; Amy Fitzgerald, who took over Welcome Home Real Estate, on Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, in 2013; and Ira Greenberg, an attorney and counsel to the firm of Leavitt & Kerson, who has extensive dealings in real estate.  Moderating the panel was Lisa Ann Deller, who is head of the land use committee of Community Board 2 and works in asset management at the National Equity Fund, which deals in affordable and sustainable housing.

Deller started with Bessai, asking if in cases of selling property for customers, agents from well-known real estate companies have a better chance to get higher prices for them than do local agents.  He replied that smart brokers who know the market make the best deals, whether working for a small local company or a large one located outside the area.  His answer to a question about the current tax bill and its effect on the market as law was that he couldn’t determine it, nor could any of the others.  

Scott Cooper had been asked to speak about rentals, so he called the current market favorable for those choosing to rent.  Studio apartments are available at $1,500 per month if you can find them.  A few might exist in one line of an apartment building, but seldom elsewhere.  One-bedroom apartments, on the other hand, are widely available at $1,700-2,100, since most apartment buildings contain one-bedrooms, sometimes entirely.  He went so far as to say, “It’s a great time to rent,” but he did call the situation unusual.

Deller said that the build-up in Long Island City since 2008 showed an impulse to build condominiums, but that market went soft, as might the market broadly, which might lower LIC’s sky-high rental prices.  She asked about renting independently, without the aid of a broker.  Cooper said that even though his children are out of college and he needn’t worry about constantly gaining clientele, he would still recommend having a broker.  Asked who is coming to live in Woodside, Sunnyside and LIC, he said it was largely young professionals from Manhattan.  What he called “mature couples” beyond the stage of supporting offspring are not showing up often.

Ira Greenberg was asked if an attorney is necessary when buying or selling a residence.  He recommended having one.  Though you might maneuver your way on your own, the odds are strong that one would prove necessary.  In the area in question, a buyer is buying old property, which almost certainly has a lot of questions about it that must be answered.  ”Caveat emptor” still applies.

He explained the difference between co-ops and condos, the difference being that in the latter, tenants are responsible for their apartments but not the building containing them; while a co-op is a stock affair where residents buy stock and are individuals in a building full of stockholders.  He said that anyone entering into a co-op agreement should read the lease carefully—which is to say slowly, since it tends to be long.  His further advice is that an applicant should ask the residents their views of the place.  The big responsibility co-op tenants have is getting along with their neighbors.  He called typical members of co-op boards “people with time on their hands.”

That didn’t appear to bother Amy FitzGerald, owner of Welcome Home, who has served as president of her co-op board and is treasurer of her homeowners’ association.  She said Greenberg covered points she had in mind and added to them the necessity of good credit.  Pull your credit report annually, she said, and look for things in it that might be negatively surprising, which she called likely.  She recommended making any search for a co-op at least three months long.  When selling your home or renting out your co-op, start by getting rid of clutter that is almost sure to be there.  As a person familiar with Sunnyside might, she advised inquiring about landmarking, which she said cuts both ways and can generate secretive homeowners’ associations.  Asked about landmarking,

 Greenberg said he opposed the landmarking of Sunnyside in 2006, drawing a few groans of disagreement from attendees.

Addressing a complaint that Sunnyside is too expensive for a young professional who might want to move there, Greenberg harked back to the Mitchell-Lama housing legislation of the mid-1950s and said that while its cause of middle-class affordability has run its course there might still be a program of that type that could be drawn up to address the concerns of newer generations.  Pat Dorfman, who organized the real estate forum, said she believed that Sunnyside has had a better situation than LIC because City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, a Sunnyside resident, has looked to its welfare and discouraged developers’ vertical enthusiasm—in contrast, she complained, to his willingness to promote up-zoning in LIC, spreading the vertical threat there.

The panel didn’t want to get deeply into two great complaints, No. 7 service and conversion of hotels into homeless shelters, but they were strong topics for much of the audience.  One man said the train that runs its elevated course through Woodside, Sunnyside and LIC is bringing these neighborhoods down with its delays, often prolonged by the problem of crowding.  The question about hotels for the homeless grew poignant when one man living near the City View Inn on Greenpoint Avenue and the Best Western Hotel on Hunters Point Avenue expressed his worry that the worth of his house was falling because homeless persons young and old spent all hours wandering around the nearby streets, causing disruption. 

One woman had a rebuttal for his complaint, saying that in Philadelphia she has witnessed hotel conversion to homeless shelters that actually improved the neighborhood.  For the panelists, Deller said that however important the issues of transportation and homelessness were, they weren’t on the night’s agenda.

Mohamed Bessai returned with another observation about the big tax bill, saying that whatever happens, the housing market will be “stable” for the next few years.  Condos and co-ops were brought up again as Ira Greenberg said he found the advantage goes to co-ops, but they have become rare locally.  Conversion from co-ops to condos does, he admitted, have the advantage of getting rid of the co-op board.    


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